Lives of the fellows

Ernest Noble Chamberlain

b.14 January 1899 d.9 February 1974
MB ChB Liverp(1921) MD(1924) MRCP(1925) MSc(1928) FRCP(1937)

Ernest Noble Chamberlain was born in Warrington where both his parents were pharmacists. He was an only child and lost his father in childhood. He began his education at Warrington Grammar School and then achieved a childhood ambition and a lifetime satisfaction as a boarder at Christ’s Hospital at Horsham. He went from school in 1917 to the Royal Naval Air Service where he won his wings and thence to Liverpool University where he qualified in December 1921. He became house physician, followed by medical registrar to Professor John Hay at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary, and followed this by a trip to India as a ship’s surgeon. He liked to tell of cases of bubonic plague that occurred on the voyage. He was married in 1930 to Miss Jane Theresa Hughes and she and their only son Anthony survived him.

His first senior hospital appointment was in 1925, to the Royal Southern Hospital, Liverpool, as physician to outpatients and to the new cardiology department, and at the same time he obtained a Beit Medical Fellowship which led to an MSc in 1928 with a thesis on Studies in the Chemical Physiology of Cholesterol. In 1933 he returned to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary as assistant physician to Wallace Jones and together they consolidated and developed the Heart Department which Professor Hay had founded. He was equally proud of his appointment at Smithdown Road in the old municipal hospital days; he was one of those who thought up the new name of Sefton General Hospital in 1948, and he worked hard in the wards and on the management committee to convert it into an up-to-date general hospital. Perhaps his greatest hospital achievement was the development there of the Liverpool Regional Cardiac Centre of which he became the first director. After the second war he moved back to the Royal Southern from the Royal Infirmary as senior physician, and he served this hospital lovingly and faithfully until his retirement in 1964.

Chamberlain’s other commitments included University lectureships in medicine and dental medicine, various offices in the Liverpool Medical Institution including ten years as editor of the Transactions and the Presidency in 1959, the Association of Physicians, the British Cardiac Society, the weekly session at the Royal Insurance Company which he much enjoyed, the fortnightly out-patient clinic at Blaenau Ffestiniog Memorial Hospital, and a considerable private practice in Merseyside, North Wales and the Isle of Man. To all this must be added his special professional contribution as a medical author of distinction including two best-selling textbooks - A Textbook of Medicine for Nurses, and Symptoms & Signs in Clinical Medicine, books which gave him a national and international reputation. Symptoms & Signs which was first published in 1936, is now produced in paperback form for Commonwealth readers, has a Japanese edition, and with the ninth edition the total production exceeds 100,000 copies. He also published a Handbook of Electrocardiography and edited a Textbook of Medicine mainly by Liverpool authors.

This is the brief catalogue of a full and successful professional life. "Joey" Chamberlain was a man of great tolerance and courtesy, diffident in manner, fastiduous to a fault, very much the consultant physician of his generation. The social side of medicine was important to him and the gracious hospitality, the Bentley car, the foreign visits and holidays, the love of nice things and distaste for the second rate were as much a part of the dignity of medicine as for personal prestige. He had his own Liverpool house in Rodney Street which was beautifully appointed and maintained, and spent his weekends at his small estate in the vale of Ffestiniog which he farmed (not very successfully) during and for some years after the second war. To the end of his life he ordered his affairs with dignity and success. He finally wound up his practice and gave up his consulting rooms just before his 75th birthday. The day before he died he completed the proof-reading of the 9th edition of Symptoms and Signs. He was taken ill in the afternoon with a minor seizure, he lost consciousness the same evening, and died the following day. He was buried quietly in the small churchyard at Ffestiniog in a setting he loved so much - a beautiful winter morning with brilliant sunshine, snow on the mountains, and all around the colours of autumn and the sound of running water.

G Sanderson

[, 1974, 1, 464]

(Volume VI, page 97)

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